Couplets are easy to come by for the poetry lover, because he or she is familiar with the use and placement of literary devices. For those who are not as involved with literature, breaking the word down helps to uncover the meaning.
See the word couple in "couplet?" That is at least part of what a couplet is: a couple of lines. However, to the untrained eye, distinguishing a couplet from merely a couple of lines can be difficult.
Couplets generally appear in poetry, and quite frequently they rhyme and have the same meter. The two lines often belong together, and share some sort of similar idea.
Perhaps the best place to start when looking for couplets is with the famous couplets from Shakespeare. He often ended his sonnets with a rhyming couplet that summed up the main ideas of the poem.
Some examples of couplets in the endings of his sonnets are:
Even without having read the rest of these sonnets, a reader can make some educated guesses about the content of the poem based on the couplets alone.
Shakespeare isn't the only writer from a bygone era who embraced the use of the couplet. Alexander Pope, a writer who lived from 1688-1744 was an English poet who wrote satirical verse… and who used a lot of couplets.
Here are some examples from his works:
There are plenty of other couplets in literature as well. Take this classic example from the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer:
Singing he was, or fluting all the day;/He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Some modern poets and writers use couplets as well. For instance, Shel Silverstein, a writer of poems for children, included some great examples of couplets:
Although there are an innumerable amount of couplet examples floating around in the world of literature, here are a few more to further expound upon the idea of what a couplet truly is:
Once again, even without knowing the rest of the works or anything at all about the authors, determing at least partially what the poem may be about is not extremely difficult after reading the couplets.
The couplet form is a popular device in poetry. The main purpose is to make a poignant point that leaves a lasting impression with the reading. Through the use of rhyme and rhythm in the couplets, that effect is generally achieved. However, Alexander Pope parodied the form when he wrote:
"Where-e'er you find 'the cooling western breeze,'/In the next line, it 'whispers through the trees;'/In crystal streams 'with pleasing murmurs creep,'/The readers threatened (not in vain) with 'sleep.'"
He is poking fun at his contemporaries for overusing the couplet. Like any literary device, if the couplet is used too frequently, it loses its effect and becomes mind numbering rather than thought provoking.
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